Paula Bennett 'surprised' by 'lenient' robbery sentences

While the Police Minister and dairy owners disagree on how to stop armed robberies, they both believe sentences for criminals can be too lenient.

Paula Bennett on Thursday announced a $1.8 million fund to help "high-risk" dairies, superettes and small local businesses implement better security measures.

These include measures such as panic and high-volume interior alarms, DNA spray, fog cannons and time safes for cash and cigarette storage.

It is expected between 500 and 600 businesses could meet the "high-risk" threshold, while around 3500 businesses will be given safety advice by police.

The Crime Prevention Group says it is too little too late, the focus needs to be on offenders, rather than shop owners and judges aren't handing down strong enough sentences.

"The judicial system is failing our police. They are letting down our police and the communities by letting the offenders go so easily. They are so lenient, too weak," spokesperson Sunny Kaushal told the AM Show on Friday.

"The law needs to be really tough. Until we have some strong deterrent, these guys will not stop."

Ms Bennett, also the Deputy Prime Minister, told the AM Show she agreed with Mr Kaushal on sentences.

"I have seen some [cases where] you've got to say 'look, like I'm surprised they haven't had longer', but judges get to make their call under all of the circumstances."

But she disagreed judges don't have the power to hand down harsher penalties.

"Don't turn around and say they don't have to tools because for the majority of them who are 17 years and over, they can get 14 years [for aggravated robbery]."

She has also been irritated by criticism of the policy.

"I'm a bit annoyed that no dairy owners want it and this is the rhetoric I'm hearing, and that's just not true.

"I'm getting a whole lot saying this is good, and it's on the back of a whole lot of other things that are happening."

She says the new policy goes hand-in-hand with other measures the Government and police are doing, including more police patrols at robbery hotspots, officers visiting more than 1000 dairies to do a "prevention audit" and arresting more than 100 people.

The Government also recently announced 880 new frontline officers, and that 20 more towns will get a 24/7 police presence. Labour criticised the policy, saying it wasn't enough and was just keeping up with demand.

Govt's focus on the wrong people - Labour

But Labour's deputy leader Jacinda Ardern, also appearing on the AM Show, says the talk about "locking someone up" for such crimes isn't where the focus should be. 

"The mantra we were using just a few years ago with police was preventative policing - trying to prevent that harm from happening, community-based policing.

"What I'm hearing and what I heard the Police Association tell Parliament not that long ago was, 'We just haven't got enough. Our youth aid officers do an amazing job, we just don't have enough.'"

The new policy isn't new funding and uses existing police resources, she says.

Both Ms Bennett and Ms Ardern agree the underlying problem starts much earlier than when offending takes place.

"The parents don't even care, they almost encourage them in some cases. It's horrific," Ms Bennett says.

"If [parents] can't raise them properly to become law abiding citizens, then there's something seriously going wrong there and I think we need to look at it."

Ms Ardern says what is right and wrong isn't so black-and-white in some instances.

"If you're raised to do stand-over, then what do you expect? So we do need to go back to the beginning."